The Vatican and Difficult Relationships

August 28, 2009

35065“We’ve always had a somewhat difficult relationship with the Vatican,” says Brother Frederique of the Deir Mar Musa el-Habashi Monastery in Syria. When you hear that monks and nuns live in the same monastery you think you might have some understanding as to the relationship problems … but no this is the tip of the iceberg. “Our shared spirituality is based on the simplicity of our life, on peace and the recognition of Islam and Christianity as religions of God.” The different religions are part of the “mystery that is humanity,” says Brother Frederique. The monastic community of Deir Mar Musa el-Habashi believe that Christianity and Islam are equal.

The monastic buildings date from the eleventh century however the religious community is much younger. The monastery was only rediscovered in 1983 by a Jesuit priest doing an archaeological excavation in the Syrian desert. Having prayed there he felt spiritually inspired to found a monastic community dedicated to dialogue between Islam and Christianity. The monks and nuns within the community come from across the world. Their liturgy is celebrated in the Syrian Rite and the Arabic language. They welcome Christians and Muslims to visit and regularly hold seminars to foster a a spirit of dialogue.

“The desert has a spirituality of its very own,” feels Brother Frederique. And, he says, it is always a very special thing to encounter the spirit of God – or Allah – in the desert.”

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